First China, then the US: Japan’s No. 1 online shopping mall Rakuten (again) outlines plans to go global

Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and president of Japan’s leading online shopping mall Rakuten, has never made a bis secret of his seeing Rakuten as a global brand (here is some detailed background).
This is especially interesting since Rakuten is the biggest “purely” Japanese web company there is (its market cap exceeds $8 billion currently and SoftBank has a lot of other non-web related businesses, while Yahoo has a US background). To put things into perspective, this is eight times more than LinkedIn’s current valuation and comes close to Facebook’s $10 billion valuation.
What Rakuten has achieved so far in terms of globalization is:

  • establishing a service called Rakuten International Shipping Services on their Japanese site for customers who can’t speak Japanese
  • setting up Rakuten Travel in English on their Japanese site for tourists looking for places to stay on their Japan trip
  • setting up offices in the US, Taiwan, Korea, Guam, China, Thailand and Luxembourg
  • buying and now running LinkShare (an affiliate marketing company) in the US for $425 million

Screenshot of Rakuten Taiwan‘s top page:
Mikitani gave an interesting  interview to the Nikkei, Japan’s biggest business newspaper, a few days ago, stating this isn’t all. In essence, he said that:

  • his company wants international sales to eventually reach 50%+ of all sales (the number hovers at around 10% currently)
  • Taiwan’s market for Rakuten is about one-fourth the size of Japan’s and there’s a lot of room for further growth
  • Asia (China) is the next target market, followed by the US
  • American retailers should have the possibility to offer products on Rakuten’s Japanese site
  • the malls of different countries could be interconnected, resulting in a global shopping mall
  • 27 countries in total are on Rakuten’s list for internationalization (India is a high-potential market for Mikitani)

Mikitani also said his company is currently building a large-scale system, which is supposed to make it easier and quicker to roll out Rakuten services in multiple languages.


  1. Although Rakuten allies with a big local company “uni-president” in Taiwan which has huge resources to promote it, but they’re still not doing well in Taiwan market. I guess they spent too much time to figure the localization problem out.

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